After the Fall Book Summary - After the Fall Book explained in key points
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After the Fall summary

Ben Rhodes

Being American in the World We've Made

4 (228 ratings)
21 mins
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    After the Fall
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    America’s standing took a dive in the post-Cold War era.

    People growing up in the US in the 1980s could easily fall victim to a certain narrative about American exceptionalism. Popular movies like Top Gun and Rocky IV were indoctrinating young minds with the idea that no foreign power stood a chance against the US and its tireless brand of righteous freedom. 

    Real-world signs backed up this idea. The US economy was booming, the Soviet empire was crumbling, and by the end of the decade the Berlin Wall had fallen. 

    The collapse of the wall was as clear a sign as any that America had won the Cold War. In a way, it was a high-water mark for the US. But it also left a gaping hole, as the country asked itself, Where do we go from here? What’s our purpose in the world?

    The key message is: America’s standing took a dive in the post-Cold War era.

    After the Second World War, the US was all about promoting democracy. For many people, including those living under Soviet rule in the Eastern bloc, this was a compelling purpose. But after the Iron Curtain came down, things got murkier. The values America was pushing became less about personal freedoms and democracy, and more about dollars and cents. It became about growing a healthy world economy.

    In places like Hungary and Russia, this move raised questions about America’s specific brand of capitalism. Politics and corruption have always gone hand-in-hand, but in the post-Cold War years, it became clear that the wealth-generating money markets of the US also came with stark economic inequality. 

    There was no escaping the fact that America was promoting a system designed to help the rich get richer. Not only that, but in 2008, when a crippling financial crisis steamrolled its way across Europe, the system was revealed to be a dangerous threat to anyone who wasn’t filthy rich.

    At the same time, the US had spent the start of the twenty-first century in a never-ending nightmare war in the Middle East. After spreading a ruinous version of capitalism, America was flexing some ugly imperialist muscle in the guise of a so-called War on Terror. But instead of reducing acts of terrorism, the war seemed to create more violence and inspire future generations of extremists. 

    Once a symbol of freedom and prosperity, post-Cold War America was now spreading violence and poverty. Oh, how the mighty had fallen.

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    What is After the Fall about?

    After the Fall (2021) takes a sobering look at the rise of nationalism and authoritarianism in places like Hungary, China, Russia, and the United States of America. It examines how the standing and influence of the US changed in the years following the Cold War, and how this has led to the current challenges facing democracy around the world. 

    Who should read After the Fall?

    • Political junkies
    • Fans of democracy
    • Students of modern history

    About the Author

    Ben Rhodes is a former advisor and speechwriter for President Barack Obama and current cohost of the popular podcast Pod Save the World. He is a contributor to MSNBC and NBC News, as well as the author of the best-selling memoir The World As It Is

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